Carey to Host 50 Years of Integration Celebration on September 2

William Carey University will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its integration with activities at the Hattiesburg campus on September 2.
The celebration will begin at 9:25 a.m. with a special chapel service in Smith Auditorium. The guest speaker will be Dr. Joseph Byrd, a 1975 Carey graduate and vice president of student services at Xavier University of Louisiana. Special music will be provided by Carey employee Sparkle Polk and Dr. Leo Day, a 1988 Carey graduate and dean of the School of Church Music at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. During the service, the City of Hattiesburg will present a resolution to the university commemorating the occasion. The university will also recognize special alumni.
Following the chapel service, there will be an opening reception for the art exhibit, “Integration: Reflections from the Sarah Gillespie Collection,” at 10:15 a.m. in the Gillespie Museum. Various pieces of the collection, which is considered to be the most comprehensive compilation of art executed by Mississippians in the 20th century, will be featured. The exhibit will be on display at the museum through September 30. The museum is open from 1 until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or by appointment by calling (601) 318-6561.
At 1:30 p.m., there will be a worship service in Bass Memorial Chapel featuring the Rev. Arthur Siggers, a 1999 Carey graduate and the senior pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, as the guest speaker. Day will be the musical guest for the worship service, which will also feature Dr. Tommy King, Carey president, offering a word of reflection. Following the worship service, there will be a panel discussion on current and historical issues relating to integration at 3 p.m. in the Kresge Room of the Thomas Building.
The events on September 2 are the culmination of a months-long celebration of Carey’s integration anniversary. On February 5, the Winters School of Music and Ministry presented a musical, “Walk With Me: The Sixteenth Street Bombing,” which marked the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Prior to the musical, Dr. Myron Noonkester, dean of the Noonkester School of Arts and Letters at Carey and son of former Carey President Dr. Ralph Noonkester, discussed Carey’s integration and the effects it had on his family.
On February 26, Dr. Eddie Holloway, dean of students at the University of Southern Mississippi and the first African-American professional employee at Carey, presented “On Their Shoulders: The Road to the Present,” a special installment of the University Lecture Series. From February 26-28, Carey Theatre presented “A Lesson Before Dying,” a studio production by Ernest J. Gaines commemorating African-American History Month.
On March 5, the Jackson-Williams Garden was dedicated on the Hattiesburg campus in recognition of Vermester Jackson Bester and Linda Williams Cross, the first African-American students at Carey. The two Rowan High School graduates enrolled at Carey in August 1965. Carey voluntarily integrated on February 4, 1965, when the board of trustees unanimously approved the recommendation of then-President Ralph Noonkester to sign the civil rights compliance document with the U.S. Office of Education. This action made Carey the first college in Mississippi and the first Baptist college in the Deep South to voluntarily admit African-American students.
For more information on the celebration, contact the alumni relations office at (601) 318-6561 or email
William Carey University will celebrate 50 years of integration with a day of events on September 2. The events will be the culmination of a months-long celebration of Carey’s integration anniversary. Pictured at a March 5 dedication ceremony for the Jackson-Williams Garden, named in honor of Carey’s first African-American students Vermester Jackson Bester and Linda Williams Cross, are (from left) Cross, Carey President Dr. Tommy King and Bester.